While many consumers are familiar with red radishes, this vegetable also comes in a variety of other colors, shapes and sizes. Not only that, but they are available in North America all year round, thanks to the efforts of growers like Lakeside Organic Gardens. The company grows all their radish varieties in different parts of California and at this time of year, it's the Imperial Valley season.
"We grow our organic radishes - Black Spanish, Watermelon, Easter Egg and Red Radishes, year-round," said Marliese Ward of Lakeside Organic Gardens. "Between April – November our organic radishes are grown and harvested out of our Pajaro Valley ranches, of which there are a total of 50 ranches, comprising 2,000 acres. From December – April we transition to our Imperial Valley ranches which total 1,000 acres. We grow 100 percent organic and 100 percent CA Grown."
She added that one of the advantages of growing radishes is their rapid growth. "Red radishes is a high volume commodity and a relatively quick crop to grow. On average and depending on mother nature, it’s a 30 +/- day crop from planting to harvesting. Other root crops are about 70 days."
Production steady despite weather conditions
Recent rain and cold weather in California have done little to dampen production. Although radishes are a root crop, they are still susceptible to inclement weather, but this year have remained largely unaffected. Organic growers do have the challenge of pest control, something that can be dealt with by using beneficial plants and insects.
"Our supply remains strong considering recent weather conditions," Ward shared. "However, we are seeing some cosmetic damage to the tops of our red radishes and Easter egg radishes which are blemished from wind damage. This is only cosmetic though and the bulbs are superb quality, crisp and full of flavor. During the middle of the Imperial Valley season we experienced cold temperatures and frost. We waited for the frost to pass and then planted our radish crops. As it started to warm up, aphids increased exponentially resulting in our Black Spanish radishes being challenged with this pest. Beneficial plants and insects are key to offset this pest situation."
Demand growing for specialty organic radishes
According to growers, demand for organic red radishes as well as Easter Egg radishes remains consist year-round. It is the specialty radishes however, that is seeing a strong increase. "Black Spanish radish and watermelon radishes have been gaining consumer awareness as a specialty vegetable, and as a result demand is increasing," Ward said. "Black Spanish Radish, Watermelon Radishes and Easter Egg Radishes are a few of many that are no longer a novelty. They’re making their way into innovative meal kits. Only just recently are consumers understanding the depth behind the health benefits of 'specialty' organic produce."
"Watermelon radishes are tender, crisp, succulent, and firm," she continued. "The flavor is mild, only slightly peppery and when sliced they have astonishingly beautiful color. Watermelon radishes can be eaten raw, pickled or cooked. Cooking them enhances their natural sweetness and tempers some of the spice. They can be enjoyed roasted and made into a variety of salads. They’re universal and also delicious on pizzas and stand on their own as a watermelon radish soup."
Packaging options and other organic root veg
Lakeside Organic Gardens distributes to retailers, wholesalers, and processors throughout the United States and Canada. Because the East Coast and Canada grow seasonally, the California-based company produces and ships organic radishes during their off seasons. Ward described the various packaging options the company has available.
"Watermelon and Black Spanish radishes are sold and packed in a 10lb bulk bag," she said. "On request we do pack to order in 25lb bags as well. Easter Egg radishes are sold in bunches (12ct, 24ct) with a twist-tie PLU tag. Red radishes are also sold in 12ct and 24ct with a twist-tie PLU tag as well as 25lb bulk bags."
Other root crops Lakeside Organic Gardens grows are organic celery root, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, rainbow carrots, beets (gold and red) as well as large volumes of parsnips.